Jobless rate up in April, but may change

THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE in Rhode Island for April rose slightly to 11.2 percent, but coming statistical adjustments may put the actual rate quite a bit lower than that.
Posted 5/18/12

CRANSTON – Rhode Island’s jobless rate - debated within recent disparaging reports – rose slightly again for April to 11.2 percent, according to the R.I. Department of Labor and Training.

In its report released Friday, the department says last month’s 11.2 percent rate represents a one-tenth of a percentage point increase from March but matches the April 2011 rate.

Laura Hart, communications manager for the department, told Providence Business News that while it is possible the number is off slightly, it is not based on “flawed” data or likely to be skewed by more than a couple of tenths of a percentage point as suggested by University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro in his most recent Current Conditions Index.

Lardaro said numbers understating job change could put the actual unemployment rate somewhere between 10 and 11 percent.

“In no way can I confirm or deny [his number] because it’s a complicated model,” Hart said. “It may be different, it may not. Do I imagine it would be markedly different? That would surprise me.”

Lardaro was referring in his estimates to the number of Rhode Island jobs which, Hart said, were readjusted within an annual benchmarking process and were higher than had been estimated.

However, that number is only one factor that goes into determining the unemployment rate.

“We found out we were doing better [there] than the sample had indicated,” Hart said. “You have to realize, it’s an estimate.”

DLT figures show that 494,000 Rhode Island residents had jobs in April, down 2,000 from revised March figures, and representing the lowest employment level since September 1996.

Compared with April 2011, there was a 6,900 employed resident drop.

The Rhode Island labor force reached 556,300 in April 2012, down 1,900 from March and down 7,800 year over year.

Sectors that increased employment levels in April include retail (500), construction and financial activities (300 each), educational services (200), professional and business services (200), and government (200).

Jobs were lost in health care and social assistance (-500) and accommodation and food services (-500).

The average hourly production wage for manufacturing dropped 4 cents from March to $18.14, which reflects a $2.72 increase from April 2011.

The U.S. unemployment rate for April was 8.1 percent, down from 8.2 percent in March and from 9 percent in April 2011.

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